Salt Of The Earth
BBC Earth|November - December 2019
Salt has a life far beyond the dinner table. From land speed records to ancient lakes, this mineral is intimately tied to our lives and our land
Hayley Bennett

SCORCHING SALT

DANAKIL DEPRESSION, ETHIOPIA

The Danakil Depression near Dallol, Ethiopia, is an alien landscape on Earth. At 100 metres below sea level, the cratered ground barely contains the volcanic activity beneath it, spitting out hot water that dissolves salt and other minerals. It’s stiflingly hot and dry – approaching 50°C some days – and the ejected water quickly evaporates, leaving behind vibrant-coloured deposits. Sulphurous yellows mingle with iron-rich browns and turquoise tints of copper in boiling pools. It’s no place for hard physical labour, but that hasn’t deterred the hundreds of workers – Afar people – who come here with axes to cut the salt into slabs, known as ‘tiles’, for $5 a day. Although trucks are now allowed in to transport the tiles, the Afar people are wary of the encroachment of modern technology, which could devalue the products of their traditional trade.

DEAD LOSS

DEAD SEA, ISRAEL/JORDAN

The Dead Sea is a health tourism hotspot for those who believe in the medicinal benefits of a natural salt bath. The water here is about 10 times saltier than open seawater, partly because the salt has nowhere else to go – this ‘sea’ is actually a saltwater lake trapped in the Jordan Rift Valley. And with water levels dropping by more than one metre per year, it’s getting even saltier.

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